June 23, 2007


Oscar has always been into all things chevalier. SO when his teacher started to assign class projects he explained that "I looked at Tony, Tony looked at Tom, Tom looked at me and I said we would build a chateau fort" Hard to imagine this is school-work as opposed to an excuse to do what he loves to do. I guess one just gets lucky sometimes.

Fortunately, when asked, he says that he loves school. He prefers French to English (too many twos to tackle in English) and he excells at math. We are trying to convince him to take Spanish lessons after school.

Seth and Stephanie and kids have been here with us for the past 3 weeks, so we're happily surrounded by family and familarity. It's been great to share our lives with them and to hear their 3 kids pick up lots of french phrases with ease. Phoebe has charmed many locals with her "Merci beaucoup" and all of them are loving the birds nests that they watch daily on the bell tower of the church. Seth has helped out with the installation of the new kitchen and has built a stone stairway, and Stephanie has hiked most all of the local hiking trails with Pat. Claudine has been here too for the past two month, renting a furnished apartment next to the new house. It has been great having her as part of our daily lives.

We are having lots of fun on the project house which we intend to call "home" soon. As July rolls in, we see clearly that we have one last month in which to create the transition. We walk from one house to the other with our arms full (they're 6 houses apart), if we keep it up, 37 more days, average 4 trips per day, 10 kilos per trip....perhaps we can forgo the need to ever move, more of a 'morph'.
We have been working on this new/old house for two years now, so many cold days, weeks, months where nothing seems to happen, where progress has been slow. Wires that get pulled through hidden conduit, pipes that get buried in floors, insulation that is seen nor heard and tons of cement that have been absorbed into holes and cracks marking time... But now, there is progress! visible stuff! Finishes, wax, plaster, windex. Every day, even the short unproductive ones, brings some conclusion, it's even more of a pleasure than a cold day hauling debris. In the photo to the left, we are applying the plaster. This has been something of a 'eureka moment' for us. I feel like I have spent years chasing this ideal, and realized it here. We have shunned sandpaper and paint brushes for pigments and steel trowels. The process is one that is similar to "venetian plaster" (stop me if I have already been here) and one we have refined with the help of a local artisan. It involves adding natural oxide powdered pigments to powdered plaster and mixing thoroughly with water. The plaster is then applied in successive coats (4 to 6) and "ground" between each coat. The grinding we do with a 6" plaster knife that is sharpened on a wet stone between coats. The plaster is never sanded, only scarped smooth. When it approaches done it takes on a shine and is smooth like glass. Each layer is applied with force, in my mind I am stretching the fibers of the plaster to align and follow the will of my mind...Anyhow, we then we make a paste of hard soap, linseed oil and water and apply that again with the 6" knife. After two coats this adds something like a shine, depth, and softness to the wall. The whole thing gets buffed with a soft cloth and Voila! We intended to create one wall in each room in this manner but are so enamored with this finish that we have decide that we aren't going to paint any walls and will wait till we have time to complete the rest of the walls in this method, with subtler colors than the rust shown. The locals are impressed and as I said, it makes my knees weak to touch it!

We have moved half of our living room already, the coffee maker and the majority of our hearts I suppose.

Change is good.


Gail Kaufman said...

Hi Dan, Pat and Oscar:
so much fun to read your blog and know something of your life, your new house etc.
We are wonderful...Jen and Chris are just about ready to start the work on their house..scary and exciting
we miss you and wish we were in SW France right now
love, gail and barry

Seth Bain said...

Having touched the new plaster with my own hads, I can attest to its wonderful silky finish and intriguing depth of color. I predict that every house POD lives in from now on will get this new plaster treatment :)


Ruth Todd said...

So, when will you come 'home' and plaster our walls too? I'd love to feel yours... walls, that is. Maybe we can make it over there soon for a visit. Meanwhile, its nice to know you're having good times with friends and family. Good luck with the move.
Love from Ruth and Dan

lemonheadap said...

This is great! I can't believe you didn't start this sooner!? Please keep it up! We got some readin' to do!

Leek, Freddie & Mocha

Meghan said...

Dan! That is what I wanted to do in the halls of NOLA house after I started doing the venetian plaster! Now, I am the venetian plaster QUEEN! I love that you are doing it!